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Putting the fire in the Jeju ceramics sceneAn interview with kiln makers and ceramic artists John Kliewer and Justin Dyck
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승인 2011.04.23  14:42:39
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▲ Photo by Troy MacLellan

John Kliewer and Justin Dyck run a small, intimate ceramics studio near the Cinus Theater in the Joongang-ro area of Gu-Jeju. This is not their first project together; three years ago the two worked collectively to build a wood kiln with local potter Kang Seung-cheol at his studio near the new Jeju Art Museum.

Both Kliewer and Dyck continue to conjure up other projects with Kang and his wife and to fire the kiln, although they maintain separate studios. Both young men are currently teaching students the basics of ceramics, but building the wood-kiln at the Kang’s was their foray into the Jeju ceramics scene.

“The wood-kiln is not just a tool, like an electric kiln or a gas kiln or something you put together that sits in a room or a yard … The kiln is more like a place that we built, and that’s very special to us,” says Kliewer.

Kliewer and Dyck began building the kiln back in October 2008 and completed the project the following February. Other close friends contributed their time to the effort, Mr. Kang financed a large portion of the project as well, but it was Kliewer and Dyck who dreamed up the kiln and brought the idea to fruition.

The Jeju Weekly had the opportunity to sit down with Kliewer at Ire Coffee House, a proposed location to sell products produced in the kiln, and discuss the inner workings of the studio, the students, the artists themselves, and the processes behind creating beautiful and functional ceramics and kiln building.

Where did the idea to build a kiln here in Jeju originate?
I visited Mr. Kang’s studio after being directed there by Troy (MacLellan) and Justin (Dyck). ‘I have these two kilns here but I don’t really like them,’ Kang wasn’t satisfied with the way they were firing. So, I offered to help build a bigger kiln with the salvaged bricks from the existing two kilns. He said, ‘Yes, let’s do this.’

What were the challenges of building a kiln here?
Communication, not just between the owners and us, but also between Justin and myself. We learned a lot about ourselves during the process.

When was the kiln built?
Oct. 18 through Feb. 18. We finished and fired it Feb. 18 with the assistance of Justin’s former teacher, Canadian ceramist, Dave Krindle. John’s Uncle, Rodney Harder, a painter from New York City, also joined us for the next firing and a show of his own.

When you teach your students, what is something that you feel is important for them to take away from the experience?
Well one of the things I really stress in the beginning is being aware of the clay as a living material. There are many stages and characteristics of clay. It really takes patience and acute observation to see when is the best time to act on the clay … whether it is smoothing the lip, attaching a handle … there is a good time for each step. Clay takes on many forms, and it’s important to learn this because you start to understand the fluidity of the material and the process. If you are aware of the clay throughout the process you can observe the different characteristics of the material and act upon it at the right moment.

What are your plans for the future of the studio?
We’re hoping to expand to a new location sometime next year to accommodate more students. We are also working with Mr. Kang and the local government to arrange for the visit of ceramic artists from North America to build cross-cultural working dialogue and relationships.

ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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